When you call your cats by their name, do they respond, or just simply yawn and go back to sleep? When they don’t come to you when you call them, have you ever become suspicious that your cats have honed the art of selective hearing? This burning question may have inspired a group of curious researchers to launch a more thorough investigation.
According to The Independent newspaper, a study was recently made by a group of scientists at the University of Tokyo. Researchers involved in the study learned that while cats do recognize our voices, they will only respond to us when they are darned-well ready to do so.
The study was made over a period of 8 months, and was designed to help the scientists learn more about how and when felines respond. Twenty pet cats were evaluated in their homes by the researchers. During the study, the scientists played five recordings for each of the kitties; but only when their guardians were not within sight. The first three recordings had strangers calling the cats by name. The fourth recording was made by the guardian calling the cat and the fifth was made by a different stranger.
The cats’ responses to each of the calls were analyzed by the researchers by observing and measuring their ear, head, tail and paw movements as well as their vocalizations, and pupil dilation. All the cats moved their heads and ears upon hearing their names called to determine from where the sound originated, which demonstrated orientation behavior.
More than half of the cats responded identically to the sound of any voice. Thirty percent moved their ears and 10 percent meowed or moved their tails. However, all the cats showed a greater response upon hearing their guardian’s voice than they did when hearing the voice of a stranger. Interestingly, none of the cats moved in response to any of the voices calling them.
So is it possible that cats didn’t evolve to obey humans? Summing up their findings, the study authors said,
“These results indicate that cats do not actively respond with communicative behavior to owners who are calling them from out of sight, even though they can distinguish their owners’ voices. This cat-owner relationship is in contrast to that with dogs.”
They theorized that the difference in the lack of the cats’ responses was due to the different ways cats and dogs were domesticated. For thousands of years dogs have been bred and trained by humans, whereas cats basically domesticated themselves when they made themselves invaluable to humans as magnificent rodent hunters. According to the researchers,
“Historically speaking, cats, unlike dogs, have not been domesticated to obey humans’ orders. Rather, they seem to take the initiative in human-cat interaction.”
While this results of this study may be fascinating to some people, if this writer’s cats have a justified reason to respond to my voice, whether they can see me or not; they come charging like a herd of elephants, especially when they catch a whiff of a tasty tidbit that I might be offering them.
Cats always have a good reason for any of their behaviors. Don’t you think that it’s up to us to understand them rather than expect them to do our bidding? Tell us your opinion in a comment.
Photo credit Flickr User Niklas